Politics & Policy

Rep. Banks Questions January 6 Commission’s Decision to ‘Spy’ on House Republicans

A U.S. Capitol police officers guard the Constitution Avenue entrance to the Capitol grounds, on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., May 28, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

In response to reports that the January 6 select committee plans to subpoena the private phone records of House Republicans, Representative Jim Banks (R., Ind.) has written a letter demanding that the panel provide notice to the lawmakers before issuing any subpoenas. 

In a letter sent to committee chairman Bennie Thompson on Friday, Banks argued that “rifling through the call logs of your colleagues would depart from more than 230 years of Congressional oversight.”

“This type of authoritarian undertaking has no place in the House of Representatives and the information you seek has no conceivable legislative purpose,” he said. “It is a desperate partisan act that would only further reveal the political nature of the Select Committee.”

It would mark the first time in U.S. history that a committee of Congress has issued subpoenas to sitting members of Congress.

The letter comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier this month that the committee is investigating the actions of GOP lawmakers who “participated in the ‘big lie.'” She specifically named Banks and Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio.) as subjects of the probe — both of whom she blocked from serving on the panel.

Pelosi told The 19th News that she stopped Banks and Jordan from joining the committee because they are “clowns” and “not serious.”

“We’ll see what the committee finds out about them,” she said.

The California Democrat’s comments seemed to play into a conspiracy theory that Banks and other Republican lawmakers helped orchestrate the riots. However, that theory has been roundly debunked by the FBI, which found that the attack was not centrally coordinated.

Meanwhile, Thompson has said “nothing will be off-limits” as the committee prepares its first round of subpoenas. Representative Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) said he would support subpoenaing top House Republicans.

Banks notes that the power of Congress to conduct investigations or issue subpoenas is limited to securing information needed to legislate. He writes that the Supreme Court “explicitly reaffirmed last year” that a congressional subpoena is valid only if it is “related to, and in furtherance of, a legitimate task of Congress and must serve a valid legislative purpose.” 

Banks goes on to add that Congress has no power to inquire into private affairs and to “compel disclosure in order to expose for the sake of exposure.” 

“As the Supreme Court clearly held, recipients of legislative subpoenas retain their constitutional rights throughout the course of an investigation,” the letter says. “This right includes the ability of the individuals to challenge the collection and release of their private telecommunication records before Congress obtains and publishes the subpoenaed documents.”

He added that he has also forwarded the letter to the Federal Communications Commission and the general counsels of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon “to remind each of the three companies of their legal obligation not to hand over individuals’ call records unless the subject of the subpoena consents to the information being shared.”

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